I asked Kris to dig through our books and come up with recommendations for young adult novels that feature music and music makers. Here are the fun results! – Lara
The Scar Boys
A severely burned teenager. A guitar. Punk rock. The chords of a rock ‘n’ roll road trip in a coming-of-age novel that is a must-read story about finding your place in the world . . . even if you carry scars inside and out.
In attempting to describe himself in his college application essay—to “help us to become acquainted with you beyond your courses, grades, and test scores”—Harbinger (Harry) Jones goes way beyond the 250-word limit and gives a full account of his life. The first defining moment: the day the neighborhood goons tied him to a tree during a lightning storm when he was 8 years old, and the tree was struck and caught fire. Harry was badly burned and has had to live with the physical and emotional scars, reactions from strangers, bullying, and loneliness that instantly became his everyday reality. The second defining moment: the day in eighth grade when the handsome, charismatic Johnny rescued him from the bullies and then made the startling suggestion that they start a band together. Harry discovered that playing music transported him out of his nightmare of a world, and he finally had something that compelled people to look beyond his physical appearance. Harry’s description of his life in his essay is both humorous and heart-wrenching. He had a steeper road to climb than the average kid, but he ends up learning something about personal power, friendship, first love, and how to fit in the world. While he’s looking back at the moments that have shaped his life, most of this story takes place while Harry is in high school and the summer after he graduates.
When The Scar Boys ended, the band has fallen apart. Harry and Johnny are barely speaking, and Cheyenne is feeling desperate about Johnny, who has retreated into silence. It’s only through their music that the group is able to rebuild their relationships, and they slowly begin to reach musical success and fame. In Scar Girl, Cheyenne, Harry, and Richie tell their own stories as they discover the ups and downs of being rock musicians—including meltdowns on stage, too much drinking, keeping secrets that should be shared, and having fights that test the limits of their friendship. The band’s reputation grows and grows, but will the kids themselves survive?
Len Vlahos delivers a powerful sequel to his bestselling YA sensation, The Scar Boys, with a story of love, music, and heartbreak.
London, 1976: A summer of creation, destruction, and blistering heat.
Lili Garcia stands at the edge of London’s growing punk scene, playing bass with one of city’s wildest bands. The group’s success has only strained things between Lili and Curtis Ray, her cool, rebellious boyfriend and bandmate.
Lili soon meets William Bonney—a guitarist from Northern Ireland. William is as reserved as Curtis Ray is loud, haunted by the life he left behind, but every bit as brilliant a musician. William’s quiet confidence moves Lili to search for what she really wants. But the secrets of William’s past could mean danger for both of them…
The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim
Listen! For I sing of Owen Thorskard: valiant of heart, hopeless at algebra, last in a long line of legendary dragon slayers. Though he had few years and was not built for football, he stood between the town of Trondheim and creatures that threatened its survival.
There have always been dragons. As far back as history is told, men and women have fought them, loyally defending their villages. Dragon slaying was a proud tradition.
But dragons and humans have one thing in common: an insatiable appetite for fossil fuels. From the moment Henry Ford hired his first dragon slayer, no small town was safe. Dragon slayers flocked to cities, leaving more remote areas unprotected.
Such was Trondheim’s fate until Owen Thorskard arrived. At sixteen, with dragons advancing and his grades plummeting, Owen faced impossible odds—armed only with a sword, his legacy, and the classmate who agreed to be his bard.
Listen! I am Siobhan McQuaid. I alone know the story of Owen, the story that changes everything. Listen!
On odd days, Tripp uses a school practice room to let loose on a borrowed guitar. Eyes closed, strumming that beat-up instrument, Tripp escapes to a world where only the music matters.
On even days, Lyla Marks uses the same practice room. To Tripp, she’s trying to become even more perfect—she’s already a straight-A student and an award-winning cellist. But when Lyla begins leaving notes for him in between the strings of the guitar, his life intersects with hers in a way he never expected.
What starts as a series of snippy notes quickly blossoms into the sharing of interests and secrets and dreams, and the forging of a very unlikely friendship.
Challenging each other to write songs, they begin to connect, even though circumstances threaten to tear them apart.
From beloved author Mary Amato comes a YA novel of wit and wisdom, both heartfelt and heartbreaking, about the power of music and the unexpected chords that draw us together.
Open Mic Night at Westminster Cemetery
When Lacy wakes up dead in Westminster Cemetery, final resting place of Edgar Allan Poe, she’s confused. It’s the job of Sam, a young soldier who died in 1865, to teach her the rules of the afterlife and to warn her about Suppression—a punishment worse than death.
Lacy desperately wants to leave the cemetery and find out how she died, but every soul is obligated to perform a job. Given the task of providing entertainment, Lacy proposes an open mic, which becomes a chance for the cemetery’s residents to express themselves. But Lacy is in for another shock when surprising and long-buried truths begin to emerge.
A page-turning story about a teen’s struggle to overcome her fears on her quest for truth, strength, and stardom.
Madelaine loves music, loves the stage, and loves performing. When she finds a fragment of poetry that inspires her to finish a song she’s been writing, she tracks down the poem’s author online in hopes of starting a collaboration. But as more pieces of the poem find their way to her, she realizes the online poet can’t possibly be the one who’s leaving them for her. At the same time, some shocking family secrets upend Madelaine’s home life. As Madelaine struggles to separate the images people present online from the realities of who they are, her quest for truth, strength, and stardom takes turns she never expected.